From the first time, many years ago, that I heard Joyce Sidman read aloud from her poetry, when Eureka! Poems about Inventors was about to be released, I knew this woman carried magic in her soul. Working magic with words, writing about science and our very human emotions … Joyce has become a favorite author for many readers.
Who was your favorite teacher in grades K-7 and why?
Miss Cook in 1st grade was a calm, open-hearted presence whose gray eyes seemed to look right into me and sense who I was. Another favorite was Mrs. Pierce in 6th grade, who championed creative writing and brought in random pictures every Friday as story-starters.
Favorite breakfast or lunch as a kid?
My German grandmother’s blueberry pancakes. She’d mix up an eggy batter, pour it into a skillet sizzling with melted Crisco, then sprinkle the blueberries on top as it cooked. One huge pancake for each kid. We covered them in sugar and gobbled them down. Since we’d helped her pick the blueberries, they tasted extra delicious.
What’s your least favorite chore?
I hate to say this, but at this point in my life … cooking!
What’s your favorite part of starting a new project?
I’ve grown to embrace the emptiness and hint of despair that precedes a new project—the aimless fiddling with possible ideas, the doubt that any of them would ever come together—because I love the moment when something cracks open and I see how it can work. Then I’m off to the races—writing, researching, pulling from experience, juggling words. I hate that empty feeling, but have learned that it is part of getting to the excitement.
Barefoot? Socks? Shoes? How would we most often find you at home?
In summer, always barefoot. The tickle of grass, the warmth of asphalt, the cool, smooth kitchen floor—my feet are happiest au naturel. And in the evening, there is always the possibility of a soft, furry dog head against my foot.
When are you your most creative?
On sunny days.
Books on your bedside table right now?
Here’s the current pile:
Life by Cynthia Rylant, whom I consider to be a genius, so I read everything she writes.
The Goat by Anne Fleming—such an odd but wonderful premise (a mountain goat living on top of a NY apartment building).
Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline, which everyone in Minnesota seems to have read but me.
Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari, which my daughter-in-law recommended—it’s fascinating so far.
What’s your hidden talent?
I love to take photos, trying to master my macro lens. I was thrilled when my editor asked if I would like to contribute photos to my next book, The Girl Who Drew Butterflies: How Maria Merian’s Art Changed Science.
Why do you feel hopeful for humankind?
I think as a species we are a balance of altruism and tribalism, torn between wanting to help others and wanting to protect our own interests. I am hoping that balance will save us in the long run: kindness toward self plus kindness toward others, plus the brainpower to figure out the best way to negotiate these two.
Enjoy some of Joyce Sidman’s photography (all three photos © copyright Joyce Sidman):